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At Home With Ben & Leon

Let's start with a quick fire intro:

Leon: 34 yo, professional freelance photographer, originally from Taiwan, in Sydney for 9 years
Ben: 33 yo, ex-interior designer, government design strategist, originally from Brisbane, in Sydney for 3 years
Zissou: 4 yo (female), Burmese X, named after character from Wes Anderson’s ‘The life aquatic with Steve Zissou’

What inspired you to start Coincidentally Us

@CoincidentallyUs was an idea we had recently to share our daily lives and little space, beyond our separate Instagram accounts. We both would receive a lot of messages from our friends when we would share pictures of our home, of how much they loved it. Having a background in photography and interior design, we thought why not leverage our work experience to create a little passion project and share our lives/home with everyone who loves home design and décor.

Tell us about your place? 

It's a top floor, 1 bedroom walk-up apartment in Darlinghurst, NSW, 2010

What 3 words/terms best describe your style?

Mid-century modern, restrained maximalism, finding uncommon beauty in the common things

Who's been your biggest style influence?

Ray and Charles Eames (and their House): material honesty, layered
Alexander Girard: Primary colours, geometric patterns and a touch of humour
Flack Studio and YSG (Modern inspo): Avoiding the beige / ‘on trend’, textural and tactile, contrast, muted colour

Best tips for working with colour?

Our approach to working with colour is focused on adding it to a space through art, accessories, planting, and objects. Avoid using a single “feature colour” as the only colour in your space. Build a base using classic key pieces in neutral colours, adding warmth through honest materials like timber and natural fibres. Incorporate black to create visual contrast within the space.

Tips for styling small spaces (like Sydney apartments)?

A white container (walls and ceiling) will make a small apartment feel larger. If you are tight on space, pick a table with a glass top. Rugs are an amazing device to delineate space and create smaller spaces within one open area. If you are a pet owner, select a sofa that has removable covers – that you can wash or replace. Select multi-functional furniture – stools can be used as side tables, benches as coffee tables, etc. Create ambiance using lots of small lights – and always pick warm bulbs (2700-3200K) to avoid a clinical feel – avoid ceiling downlights in living spaces.

How do you successfully mix vintage pieces with a more contemporary style?

You should never stretch the budget beyond your means. Take the time to save for a quality piece that will last a lifetime and avoid 'trends' for big ticket items. In the meantime, use marketplace to upcycle furniture that might have gone to landfill. We are drawn to mid-century design but look to mix contemporary pieces that have a level of texture, detail (like our Eva everyday sofa’s stitching and armrest detail) or craftsmanship that speaks to classic design principles.

How did you source your items for your place

Our home is filled with furniture, lighting, and objects we have collected over the years in different ways. We are avid marketplace watchers and have been savvy enough to find our dining chairs, side chair and bench / coffee table, all through Facebook. We have a stool we literally found on the side of the road and just sanded back. Our desk is a piece of ply from Bunnings on some easels. Ben was lucky enough through his time as a designer to receive several pieces as gifts including our Vitra dolls and Bellhop portable lamp. We won our Eames Hang-it-all through an Instagram competition. All our art was painted by Ben or by our very talented friends and the rest we have just purchased as we have had a need and been able to afford them.

Favourite detail or item in your apartment

What drew us to this apartment was the existing detail. We love the original mosaic parquetry timber flooring, the slate green kitchen, the bright orange doors and living room wall sconces (no ceiling downlights)

What's your controversial design opinion?

A TV should not be the focal point of any space. We picked the Samsung Serif, as it’s freestanding, with a beautiful frame and doesn't compete with any of the other elements. If a TV isn't your thing, substitute it with a small portable projector!